Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
News

Why Is a Major Jewish Group Hosting a Hanukkah Party With Azerbaijan?

Hold the latkes, leaders of the Workmen’s Circle said this week. The liberal Jewish group won’t be attending a Hanukkah party hosted by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, citing the event’s location at Donald Trump’s Washington hotel and its co-sponsorship by the country of Azerbaijan.

“As a Jewish organization, we cannot and will not condone ― by agreement or silence ― the Conference’s appalling choices in its partner and the location, both of which contradict the stated themes of religious freedom and diversity,” President Peter Pepper and Executive Director Ann Toback wrote in a letter to Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Presidents Conference. The invitation sent to the Workmen’s Circle advertised the event as a celebration of “religious freedom and diversity.”

Pepper and Toback went on to blast Azerbaijan’s government for its checkered human rights, and the president-elect for attitudes perceived as racist, sexist and xenophobic. “It is unthinkable that a Jewish organization would host a party celebrating tolerance and religious freedom by partnering with an oppressive regime that actively violates those same principles and book the event in a building owned by and named for Donald Trump,” the two wrote. Other members of the Presidents Conference, including the Union for Reform Judaism, have also criticized the event.

Azerbaijan’s government has been under frequent criticism for human rights abuses, including restrictions on the media, and imprisonment of dissidents. Despite these black marks, though, the Central Asian, Muslim country has become a close strategic ally of Israel, due to both countries’ antipathy to Iran.

Speaking on behalf of the Workmen’s Circle, Pepper and Toback demanded that the Presidents Conference find another party space and dump its co-sponsor. “In the years to come, Jews in America are going to be regularly tested to make the right choices, and this clearly is not one of them,” the two wrote. “Everything about this event is the wrong choice. We urge that you immediately disavow your partnership with the Republic of Azerbaijan, and select another venue.”

Contact Daniel J. Solomon at [email protected] or on Twitter, @DanielJSolomon

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.